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Scores of animal lovers took to the streets of Hartlepool in the UK this week to pay their respects to a dog destroyed by police after she was abandoned by her human companion.
The female Caucasian Shepherd was tied to a telegraph pole close to the town’s Mainsforth Terrace on Saturday night or Sunday morning.
Despite a gathering crowd of individuals looking to protect her, Cleveland Police took the decision to shoot the dog six hours after they arrived on the scene when they could not locate the person she had been living with.
At the vigil animal lovers called for justice for the dog, who they said should not have been judged as aggressive under such stressful circumstances.
A petition set up in her memory has gathered over 120,000 signatures.
Hartlepool woman and vigil organiser Joanne Twizell said: “I am grateful and thankful to everyone who came out for the vigil. It is great to see how much people care.
“It’s disgraceful the way the authorities have been blaming each other for the decision to destroy the dog.”
Assistant chief constable Jason Harwin of Cleveland Police said after the incident: “We are always saddened by the death of an animal, but the difficult decision to destroy the dog was taken in partnership with animal welfare experts.
“The decision was made at the end of a six-hour operation after we had exhausted all other options, including attempting to trace the owner and re-homing.
“Veterinary professionals told us that, even if the dog could have been successfully sedated, they couldn’t have rehomed the dog due to its aggressive behaviour and that this was the kindest course of action.”
He added: “If the dog couldn’t be rehomed then the likely outcome would have been that it would have been euthanised by a vet.
“We also took on board advice from specially-trained officers at the scene and engaged with vets to try to attempt to resolve the issue long-term, however, sadly the only safe decision was to destroy the dog.
“It was a difficult balance, we were in fear that the dog could have got loose and potentially injured someone and the dogs’ welfare was a serious concern whilst it was tied up.
“If there could have been any other alternative ending, then of course we would have taken it.
“We would fully support the RSPCA in appealing for any information with regards to the owner of the dog to come forward.”
A further comment from Cleveland Police labeled the dog’s death as a result of ‘not being able to sedate the dog due to not being able to approach it and not having equipment to sedate it from a distance’.
Several witnesses to the shooting insist that they had spoken to professionals who did have equipment that would have sedated the dog without a need to approach it, and that those people were willing to make the trip to Hartlepool to save the dog’s life.
These reports are unverified.
The RSPCA released the following statement: “This was a difficult and distressing police-led incident with an outcome which no one wanted.
“We attended to help the police and dog warden and sought independent vet advice to try and find a non-lethal solution.
“The dog had been seen by someone from another charity and there was concern that if the dog escaped she could have hurt someone.
“The police informed us that using a tranquiliser dart on the dog was not an option.”
It continued: “The RSPCA believes that abandoning any dog is totally unacceptable and in this case had tragic consequences.”
This week police confirmed that the dog was chipped but unregistered.
All attempts to trace whoever chose to abandon her have so far failed.